The Korean War (1950-1953) shattered the myth of “mightiness” of the United States to smithereens, and gave birth to a new myth of Korea that startled the whole world.
Early in the morning of June 25, 1950, a surprise attack was launched against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by the south Korean army under the control of the US, bragging about “completing the war within 72 hours.” It seemed to everybody as a fait accompli that the US, boasting of being victorious in over 110 wars in 200 years of its history, would be the winner in its war against the Republic less than two years after its founding.
To everyone’s surprise, a miracle was wrought.
The Korean People’s Army, true to the order of President Kim Il Sung to launch an immediate and decisive counteroffensive against the invaders, advanced like surging waves.
On the morning of June 28 the KPA liberated Seoul, the result being quite contrary to big talks of the US “within three days.”
Early in July 1950 the military and technological superiority of the US completely vanished
on the sea of Jumunjin in the East Sea of Korea. The US heavy cruiser Baltimore, which was called a “floating island” as it was a 205-m and 17 300-ton vessel with a complement of 1 700 officers and men, and 69 pieces of guns and even aircraft on board, was sunk by the KPA navy.
The confrontation between the US flotilla of a light cruiser and a destroyer headed by Baltimore, and the KPA navy of four torpedo boats was beyond comparison in the light of the power balance. This US armada slighted the KPA torpedo boats like dots on the vast sea, and attempted to run against them. However, the Korean torpedo boats closed the US vessels, fast and adroitly moved, threading their way through huge columns of water and a hail of bullets and launched pincer attacks, thus putting the armada on the defensive. Baltimore was lopsided hit by two torpedoes, broken in two parts by the third torpedo, and finally sunk under the sea. The light cruiser and destroyer scurried for flight. It was an event of special note in the world history of naval battles.
The US myth of the “mightiness” blew up again in Taejon, with the annihilation of the 24th Division, which had been called an “Invincible Division.”
The US and south Korean troops, beaten by the powerful counteroffensive of the KPA and making retreats southward, set Taejon the “second capital” and built the “line of no retreat,” and the “last defence line,” by deploying the 24th Division and numerous troops and military equipment.
However, the KPA soldiers routed the enemy by employing detouring tactics, something beyond their imagination. As the enemy put emphasis on the front and kept the southeastern area open, Kim Il Sung saw to it that the KPA units, which had advanced to the southwestern area, manoeuvred back, some to the area southeast of Taejon to cut off the retreat of the enemy, thus forming a circle surrounding the city.
On July 20, 1950 the KPA units waged a general offensive and liberated Taejon. Dean, Commander of the 24th Division, was caught by a KPA soldier while escaping in a soldier’s uniform. The “Invincible Division”, which was deprived of its colours and radio car, was thus routed.
An officer of the US army wrote in a book that the KPA employed the tactics of attacking the 24th Division from the front so as to give them no other way but to beat the retreat, and on the other hand checking its retreat by detouring and infiltrating into its rear, and that the leading officers could not grasp the tactics until it was too late for them to save the situation.
The tactics of the KPA employed when liberating Taejon is now studied at military academies in Europe as a major subject.
Another myth of “mightiness” was shattered in the sky.
A lot of modern US airplanes, including “air fortress B-29”strategic bombers, were downed by the conventional propeller planes of the KPA.
Airplanes were shot down not only in the sky but also by the aircraft-hunting teams organized by the order of the President on the ground.
Afraid of being shot by the Korean aircraft-hunters the US pilots switched over to high-altitude flight from low flying and preferred formation flight to individual one. Some of them even refused flight.
During the war the US army lost some 12 220 aircraft.
The US suffered the loss 2.3 times greater than what it had suffered in the four years of the Pacific War, including the loss of 1 567 120 men, among them 405 490 being US soldiers. They had no other way but to sign the Armistice Agreement, which was their surrender document.
George C. Marshall who was the former US secretary of state and defence confessed: “The myth exploded to atoms, and it became clear to everyone that the United States was not so strong as others had thought to be.” Omar Bradley, who served as first chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that the Korean war was a great military disaster and the wrong war in the wrong place, at the wrong time and with wrong enemy.
The Korean war is worth special mention in the world history, when “myth of mightiness” of
the US was shattered to pieces and a new myth of Korea’s invincibility was created.